CONYERS -- The economic impact of the Baxter International bio-pharmaceutical facility is expected to reach far beyond Stanton Springs.
Gov. Nathan Deal announced Thursday that Baxter will invest $1 billion in bio-manufacturing in Georgia, including a plasma-based therapies facility in Stanton Springs, a mixed-use business park in Newton County that is owned by Newton, Walton, Morgan and Jasper counties.
Glenn Sears, executive director of the Conyers-Rockdale Economic Development Council, said the "halo effect" of industrial investments on the scale of Baxter International's planned facility can be significant.
"This puts us on the map as a bioscience regional location for those industries east of Atlanta," said Sears. "Just like Caterpillar put (the Clark County) area on the map for that kind of manufacturing, this should draw all those ancillary industries that support that kind of production, whether it's tractors or plasma."
As an example, Sears said Caterpillar's influence has extended well out of Clark County, where the plant is under construction.
"We court the biosciences industry, and we've done more recently with them than anybody knows about," Sears said. "The 'halo effect' is very strong, and some people think it may be just something people say, but we have already had contact from the state, not on biosciences, but this would be the halo effect from Caterpillar."
Sears pointed out that the distance between Rockdale and the Stanton Springs exit on I-20 east is "minutes on the interstate." He also said the timeline for construction of the facility will give support and service businesses in the region time to come into the market.
The Caterpillar announcement and Thursday's Baxter announcement are encouraging signs for the economy in general, Sears added.
"There is truly a manufacturing resurgence in the United States, and that's wonderful for us."
And while the recruiting process for manufacturing industries can sometimes be long, results are starting to emerge.
"The Clark County site was on the market for at least as long (as Stanton Springs), and now Caterpillar has come and now Baxter, in what, two months. Things are happening," he said.
Roger Harrison, senior vice president for economic development with the Covington-Newton County Chamber of Commerce, said he does not anticipate that Baxter will be like Caterpillar in that it will be dependent on a multitude of suppliers that might spring up nearby.
"The bigger impact is that we are branded as a life-science friendly community and we will be able to get more Baxter-type companies here," he said.
Baxter will also increase the area's average income, with the average wage of its 1,500 employees at $60,000, Harrison said.
"That will answer everybody's question of why don't we have more retail and good restaurants. The cycle of economic development is quality jobs first, (increased) household income, retail growth, the tax digest goes up and qualify of life improves. It starts with quality jobs," he said.
Denny Dobbs, the Newton County representative on the Joint Development Authority of Jasper, Morgan, Newton and Walton counties that owns Stanton Springs, said the Baxter win "is a game changer for the entire four-county region."
"I think with this company being this size and the commitment they're making, we will be a premier technology destination, if you will," Dobbs said. "I don't know if we can grasp the possibilities."
Staff Reporter Crystal Tatum contributed to this story.